I recently read an article on Wabush Recreation Centre in Labrador that announced that it was permanently closing its doors after 50 years in operation and noted how much of the rational being used by those making the decision reflected the same state of much of Ontario’s smaller community aging recreation infrastructure. Be clear, I do not want to see any recreation facility lost in our province, but there are turbulent times ahead for the some of our members as their communities come to terms with the cost of providing recreation and the available financial resources.
I am confident that the news article only skimmed over all the facts, but one comment that caught my eye was “a Labrador City councillor, (that) said they weren't willing to continue the financial arrangement because Wabush wouldn't provide a plan for self-sustainability”… that is the message that today’s recreation leaders will need to adopt. There are endless benefits to having a community recreation facility, but these benefits have real costs. If we look at this from a personal budgetary lens, when household finances change and funds do not seem to cover all expenses, then an evaluation of how this can be rectified needs to occur. Water, sewer, food, clothes, and shelter are essential. A vehicle, pending if public transportation is available would be next. Then we start to look at the travel trailer, boat, snowmobile, motorcycles, and all the other recreational assets and these are most often the first to go. Moving forward many municipal operations are going to be no different.
The ORFA will continue to promote the importance of asset management for our industry. Data-driven tools are key to ensuring the sound long-term management of all recreational assets. As we focus on gearing up for life post-pandemic, we will need to enhance the use of our current facilities while ensuring that they are reliable services that will improve quality of life. ORFA’s investment in the Recreation Facility Asset Management software is our commitment to assisting our members in these efforts. Having the right tools to make sound asset management decisions is one way ORFA can help drive the provinces economic recovery. Proactive recreation professionals need to develop “plans that focus on self-sustainability” not only to protect their employment, but the historical recreational experiences of their communities.
Comments and/or Questions may be directed to Terry Piche, CRFP, CIT and Technical Director, Ontario Recreation Facilities Association
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